Construction professionals believe it will be at least 12 months before the sector returns to pre-pandemic levels.

That's according to a survey of over 350 industry participants by the Construction Industry Federation.

It's being published as construction sites are readied for a resumption of activity this day next week.

The survey found that around two thirds of participants had been forced to lay off staff either temporarily or permanently.

Nine in ten said the shutdown would impact revenue with around a third saying they expect the hit to be in excess of 30%.

Half of organisations said they had availed of government grants with eight in ten of those availing of the wage subsidy scheme.

"Construction companies have seen 100,000 of their workers lose the jobs in the past month," CIF Director General, Tom Parlon said.

"This survey shows the struggles that the construction industry faces. From cash flow issues and legal disputes to productivity challenges, the industry will need time to adjust and recover" he added.

The survey coincides with a report on construction activity carried out by Ulster Bank.

The Purchasing Managers' Index - a monthly indicator of sentiment in the industry - registered an unprecedented fall in activity due to the Covid-19 shutdown of construction activity.

Tom Parlon, Director General of the Construction Industry Federation, said the industry had been essentially wiped out for five weeks.

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"We appreciate there we're among the first sectors of industry to get back. There's quite a bit of preparation to be done, but sites are being assessed this week and made Covid-proof," he said.

"Luckily, we started preparations for this a month ago. We had to modify minutely over the weekend in order to fall into line with national protocol. It will be done gradually. Social distancing will be challenging. It's going to mean fewer people on sites and that's going to impact on productivity," he stated.

Mr Parlon said he was confident that the measures would meet standards set down by the Health and Safety Authority.

"We are meeting their criteria because we wouldn't be opening otherwise. There will be extra hygiene facilities on site as well as safety modifications and signage with regards to distancing. Over 75,000 workers have completed online training before returning," he explained.

Looking ahead, he said there was a need for a firm commitment from the incoming government to support and accelerate house building projects and critical infrastructure, given that demand will still be strong.

"When they think about stimulus, other sectors like tourism and travel - it isn't going to work there, unfortunately. We're in a good position to soak up that stimulus and to provide jobs and create extra economic activity," he concluded.